Around 10:15 AM on July 16, 2014, I had my first IUD inserted. I’m 26 years old and no stranger to using birth control, but Mirena is a whole different beast, let me tell you. I actually know quite a few people who have been the bodily recipients of an IUD (intrauterine device)—either Mirena or Paraguard. All the women I’ve known to have them or to have had them previously had one thing in common that I do not share: they had all birthed a child. *Gulp* Back in the day, there was a myth that any childless soul such as my old maid self should not have an IUD implanted due to the risk of sterility. As it goes with myths, this was proven to be false, and as my OB/GYN so honestly stated during our visit this morning, “I put these in lots of teens and women who have never given birth—those who need it the most” “Those who need it the most”—right on, doc.
Therefore, I was ready to give this new form of birth control a shot, after recently having formulated a theory that perhaps the birth control I had been taking for the past eight years, Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, might actually be causing me to become susceptible to blood clots in the near future . . . but that’s a whole other issue. I figured that I had nothing to lose and only something to gain. Oh, and the best part about it is that although it’s wickedly expensive (in about the 800 bucks range), my health insurance –should fully pay for it—thank god for preventatives. But damn, the things women do to keep themselves from getting pregnant. Regardless, throw me in with the responsible broads and give me that birth control and NOT a baby. Nothing against babies (although they do resemble aliens)—I’m just not at a point in my life where I’m ready for one. I’ve got this old-fashioned notion that I’d like to raise a child with the help of a significant other. And as of this moment, I haven’t met an eligible gent to meet my standards AND quite frankly, I am really enjoying living the life of a “selfish” 26 year old woman who lives for traveling around the world and embracing instability.
Anywho, back to my hoo-ha. I arrived at Planned Parenthood nice and early, wearing a cute, blue dress (nice and comfy for the insertion) and real underwear for the impending panty liner that I would undoubtedly need post-surgery. I thought I was ready. Nothing to fear except for the dilation of my cervix, or so I had been told by all the moms I knew who had IUDs. “Well, at least you’ll know what having your cervix dilated is like for when you give birth,” they said. Sheesh, because I was really itching to feel that.
Honestly though, I wasn’t worried. I’m pretty good at dealing with pain. When I get immunizations, I do my best to avoid any flinching or making any movement at all. I’m an ace at it. Back in high school when I contracted a mysterious infection, in my clitoris of all places, at the hospital I had my blood drawn so many times that one morning when a nurse drew my blood, she actually expressed concern over my lack of acknowledgment that she had just stuck me with a syringe.
Therefore, I felt like I had my pain threshold in check. I also figured that if so many other women were able to go through with this procedure, then I could do it too. So I sat in the examination room and then one of the receptionists came in to go over my medical history and to fill me in on what was about to happen to my nether region. All was going well until she asked me if I had ever felt faint or passed out during a blood draw. Oh god, and there it was—a flashback to being a strapped for cash, recent college grad in Salt Lake City, venturing out to donate plasma to earn a little extra dough. My kid sister was still in school at the time too and she donated on the regular, so I felt inspired to give it a go. She’s not the bravest person around, so I thought I had it in the bag. I could do this too. Little did I know that I wouldn’t even make it past the initial finger prick. The nurse stuck my finger with a needle and then I watched as she squeezed and squeezed my poor little digit and the blood jetted out of my body faster than fire out of an imaginary dragon’s nostrils. The wooziness overtook me and I felt my skin become clammy. I became brutally hot and then . . . I woke up beneath the table upon which I had surrendered my tragic finger. And it didn’t end there. I proceeded to purge myself of the bad memory in another examination room—into a garbage can. I sat there, releasing myself of what felt like every meal I had ever consumed and then finally, it was over. The nurse who witnessed my embarrassing display of projectile regurgitation informed me, sadly, that I would probably not be able to come back to donate plasma for a little while. I dramatically whined out that “I am never coming back here.” Bodily fail.
So that’s when my nerves set in. I stayed calm, but looming in the back of my mind was that near-plasma donation experience that never quite inspired me to try again. But this time, I wasn’t going to get sick. I would be fine. And so began the procedure. The doctor had me place my feet in the stirrups—no, we’re not going for a horseback ride, ladies—and I reclined back, with my lady parts all exposed underneath the white paper sheet I had placed over me. It was go time!
Jessica, the doctor, spoke to me throughout the entire process and that really helped a great deal. One of the first things she had to do was measure my cervix (gotta make sure that baby fits! The Mirena, I mean. Of course.) and so although that was sort of uncomfortable, it was okay. Then she had to clean my cervix and even now just thinking about that makes me feel a tad sick. I recently read somewhere that “most” women lack sensitivity in their cervix so that they’re unable to even feel when cotton swab is inserted inside. I would like to meet these women with vaginas made of steel.
But besides that, it was all going smoothly. I was attempting to breathe normally, even when I felt the two “twinges”—the sensation that comes about when the “T” shaped Mirena is inserted into the cervix. Essentially, the doctor has to “click” each top section of the “T” into place. After that though, I got some bad cramping, which is normal. However, I didn’t realize that it would begin instantaneously. My breathing increased and despite trying to steady my breathing, I knew I was failing. It was frustrating because it was out of my control and I was minor attack of hyperventilation. The doctor found me a brown sack in which to inhale and exhale from and that slowed my breaths, luckily.
Once my breathing was regular, I had a severe urge to go to the bathroom. Even earlier on, when Jessica had performed a pelvic exam on me, I felt the need to defecate. Weird, because I’m not one to typically be unable to control my bodily functions and especially in public places (doctor’s office, included), I’m not one to go release my fecal matter.
Once the insertion was complete, that’s when the real pain, discomfort, and inability to breathe at a normal rate began. The cramping was intense. I felt like I was close to fainting. Just like before when I had tried donating plasma, my skin got very cold and clammy, the beads of sweat popped out of the pores on my face at an alarming rate, and even my thighs were producing repulsive droplets of sweat that caused my backside to stick to the paper-thin sheet beneath me. I bent my knees, I spread out completely, but still, the cramps hit my lower abdomen with something similar to a menstrual cramp, but relentlessly, and without any pauses in between.
I had to get to the bathroom. The doctor had enlisted the aid of the receptionist to come sit with me. I was a pathetic sight and I felt awful for her having to remain in the room with me. I let her know of my desire to expel myself of solid waste. She told me that I could go—right there—on the bed. I quickly did a mental calculation of the mechanics of taking a shit while lying down and about how not to soil my dress while doing so and I informed her that I would be able to make it to the restroom. Both of us were immensely relieved. The act of sitting up was slow and steady. Along the way, the girl asked me if I felt faint. I was okay, not feeling like I could run five miles, but I sure as hell was getting to that beautiful porcelain seat down the hall.
The underside of my hair was soaked with perspiration. The outer portion of my mane was frizzed out like I had been electrocuted. I hoped the sight of me wouldn’t terrify any newbies to the offices of Planned Parenthood. I felt like this is what someone must look like after having an abortion. Thankfully, if all goes well, then I can check that one off my list of things that I’ll ever have to do at the clinic.
After having relieved myself in the bathroom, I checked out my reflection in the mirror. I had absolutely no color in my face. I looked like hell, there was no question about it. In just five minutes, my pre-surgery appearance had been completely transformed. I desperately wanted to leave that clinic, but even just walking took its toll on me. The cramps were debilitating and so I knew that back in the examination room, I’d be taking another lie down before I was able to be on my way.
I’m not certain if I imagined it or what, but I felt a bit rushed. I managed to lie down once again (and put on my underwear), but after a bit, it was time to go. The doctor had asked me if I had taken any medicine before the procedure and I had told her no. She advised me to pop some Ibuprofen after leaving the office and there was nothing I wanted to do more than that, except for falling asleep on my friend’s couch where I was spending the night. Later on, when I was reading up about other women’s experiences with their Mirena procedure, I realized that I was the only person who hadn’t taken anything to help with the surgery—no Ibuprofen or Tylenol or Vicodin for this girl. From the many conversations I had had with the staff at Planned Parenthood, not a single mention of self-medication had been made. There was also no mention of how I wouldn’t be given a panty liner after the procedure or that I should have probably had someone else drive me from my appointment. Oh well.
I finally left the clinic and hopped (okay, rather dropped my keys and then eased myself into) my car. I sat there for a bit, hoping the cramps would subside, but they didn’t. Then I set off, to the nearby grocery store. I realized that I probably appeared to be a junkie coming down from a high or seeking the next fix when I walked into the store. I was still sweating, with matted hair and a pained expression on my face, I imagine. I wanted to get that Ibuprofen, some water, and a snack and then get the hell out of there. Jessica had told me to take the Ibuprofen with some food naturally, so after snatching up a bottle of water, I strolled into the nearby aisle which had shelves filled with cookies and crackers. I cringed at the thought of eating chocolate chip cookies or Wheat Thins, so the idea of Fig Newtons entered my brain randomly. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased Fig Newtons before, but I spotted strawberry-flavored ones and the decision was made.
I slid into the first checkout line available, behind a guy buying a number of items, including cat food. I braced myself against the conveyor belt and waited for my turn to purchase my items. The cashier was an elderly woman and she began conversing with the man ahead of me. She asked him what kind of cat he had—I don’t about animal breeds, but he said some sort of Russian type, and the lady proceeded to talk to him about her own feline friend that she wished was on her lap at home right now.
Normally small talk doesn’t bother me, but I so badly wanted to get horizontal on a couch a twenty two minute drive away that I wasn’t having any of it. I shut my eyes and waited. The woman didn’t talk to me—perhaps she mistook my pain for hostility. Either way, I just wanted to get out of there.
After the longest drive I have ever made—all twenty two minutes of it—I was back at my friend’s place. I swapped my dress for a tank top and some shorts with a stretchy waistband and posted up on the couch. I laid on my right side, sprawled out on my back, flipped over to the other side—it didn’t matter how I positioned myself because the cramping wasn’t ceasing. I just wished that I could fall asleep. The constant stomach pain continued for an hour when I had the brilliant idea that maybe I should try walking around to relieve the cramps. I stood up and actually felt been, so I walked over toward a Lovesac in the kitchen area. It looked so comfy that I got plopped down on top of it after a mere second. But just as I did that, a wave of nausea overtook me and I knew I was going to vomit. I rushed to the bathroom where I proceeded to rid myself of the Everything Bagel and half of an avocado that I had scarfed down right before leaving for my appointment that morning—yet another thing I hadn’t been told: don’t eat much before the procedure, but perhaps that one was common sense. Throwing up an avocado is not fun. It’s one of those foods that’s fully recognizable in pureed form, most likely because it so easily becomes guacamole. It’s even less fun puking it up when you manage to somehow get it stuck up your nose during your private session with the toilet bowl. After that, I truly believed my days of loving avocados were over.
Fortunately though, I did feel a tiny bit better after ridding myself of breakfast. At around 5 PM, I felt immensely better. The cramps had subsided and because I’m not one to hang around indoors for an entire day (I’ve only done that two times in the past eight years), I took advantage of my improved state of health and set off to a local grocery store to pick up some dinner and yogurt. I still bled throughout the night and during the following day, but the flow wasn’t heavy and resembled the discharge of blood you expel during the first hours of a menstrual cycle. It was brownish and mostly remained inside of me until I wiped myself after using the restroom.
Although my first seven or eight hours of having my Mirena weren’t the most fun, two days prior to the surgery, I can say that I feel just fine. Even the next day, I felt wonderful. I still took some Ibuprofen to prevent cramps if I felt them coming on, but really, I was back to being my old self. The people at Planned Parenthood even informed me that I could go swimming and cliff jumping the day following the implantation. That had been my original plan and although I didn’t end up doing either of those, just knowing that I could get back to physical activities pronto was a relief.
We shall see how well Mirena sits with me, literally. But at this point, I’m glad to no longer be taking an oral contraceptive. Onto something new!
UPDATE: It has now been nearly ten months since I had my Mirena inserted and I think I have finally lost my period. Yay! Before this latest “period,” I had super short periods, with light bleeding that lasted maybe four days, at the most, once it became regulated. The premenstrual cramps I had with Mirena were barely apparent except on the rare occasion. The only complaint I have with this IUD is that I do feel abdominal pain after I complete strenuous workouts, like runs exceeding more than an hour or circuit workouts involving lots of sprinting. During my last “period,” I experienced horrendous cramps, so bad that I actually had to lie down for several hours, but I think that they happened because it was my body’s way of saying farewell to dispelling menstrual blood, but in reality, who knows?
I was told that I am supposed to check to make sure I can feel the strings of the IUD inside of my cervix, but I believe they clipped them very short because I tried for months to locate them, but failed miserably. During a follow-up appointment, I was told that it wasn’t really a concern of theirs because my IUD was in place and I’m positive that it is still up there because of the abdominal pain I feel after working out, which I never felt prior to having the IUD. Overall, all is good and I feel terrific. And the best part is that I don’t have to go through that procedure again until July 2019. Phew!